Kids Junk Science Says You Should Have Fewer Kids

Junk Science Says You Should Have Fewer Kids

Bible quotes sized Junk Science Says You Should Have Fewer Kids

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The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” – Deuteronomy 24:16

Is having fewer children good for the environment? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that recent “research” does not answer the question either. This junk science says you should have fewer kids.

Jill Filipovic tweet Junk Science Says You Should Have Fewer Kids

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A tweet by Jill Filipovic started this whole thing. Ms. Filipovic said, “Having children is one of the worst things you can do for the planet.”

Ms. Filipovic’s tweet was based on a rave review in The Guardian. The “review” is mainly a puff piece for Kimberly Nicholas, the senior researcher on the project. Seth Wynes, her co-author, did much of the “research” as his Master’s thesis. Ms. Nicholas, of course, was his thesis adviser. Frankly, if Lund University is giving out graduate degrees for dreck like this, I pity their poor students.

Kimberly Nicholas Junk Science Says You Should Have Fewer Kids

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The “Research”

In a nutshell, here’s what Nicholas and Wynes did. They calculated annual per-capita CO2 emissions for a variety of activities, including air travel, recycling, going vegan, buying only renewable energy, and so on. But when it came to kids, they did this:

For the action ‘have one fewer child,’ we relied on a study which quantified future emissions of descendants based on historical rates, based on heredity (Murtaugh and Schlax 2009). In this approach, half of a child’s emissions are assigned to each parent, as well as one quarter of that child’s offspring (the grandchildren) and so forth. This is consistent with our use of research employing the fullest possible life cycle approach in order to capture the magnitude of emissions decisions.

In other words they compared activities during a single year with CO2 emissions over the life of the child. But they didn’t stop there. They basically created an infinite series based on the emissions of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on.

Economists know something about this sort of thing. At the very least the researchers should have discounted future year emissions, creating what we might call the “present value of future CO2 emissions.” But that’s irrelevant because they are comparing apples to oranges. They used annual emissions from air travel and other sources. They should have compared that with one year of emissions from a child.

Thanks to Rachel Lu

Would you like to lose ten pounds of ugly fat? Great! Off with your head.

I must thank Rachel Lu. Her article at the National Review pointed me in this direction.

She begins with this delicious quote →

I can’t do justice to her excellent writing by paraphrasing, so I’ll just include a big chunk of her text:

The Lund study is not just a bleg about inefficient family cars or disposable diapers. It’s about visiting the emissions of the children on the fathers, ultimately convicting parents of the crime of perpetuating human civilization.

Parenthood, of course, isn’t the sort of thing you can step into and out of on a per annum basis. That’s the excuse for blaming parents for the projected carbon emissions of their child’s entire life, and then adding still more to that total based on projected grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’re leaning on this cool concept that another team of climatologists dreamed up, called a “carbon legacy.” Each parent gets credited (or demerited) with half of every child’s projected lifetime emissions, a quarter of each projected grandchild’s projected emissions, and so forth down the generations. The cumulative total becomes your “legacy,” which is how we end up at the conclusion that childbearing is orders of magnitude worse than gas-guzzling, air travel, or the consumption of animal flesh.

Parents, on this evaluation, are worse offenders by far than the childless businessman who flies all over the country, sampling steakhouses and taking joyrides in private helicopters. The Lund study is not just a bleg about inefficient family cars or disposable diapers. It’s about visiting the emissions of the children on the fathers, ultimately convicting parents of the crime of perpetuating human civilization.

Comparing a year’s worth of road trips and beef jerky to the anticipated carbon output of your descendants in perpetuity is just silly on its face. That doesn’t even resemble an apples-to-apples comparison. Now, let’s engage in a little more armchair reflection. Quite recently, our friends on the left were beside themselves over the Paris accords and the Right’s refusal to get serious about climate change. We heard about echo chambers, false prophets, and the infamous conservative fact-aversion. Is there a chance that studies like this play some role in widespread skepticism about scientific claims? Perhaps what we have on our hands is a “crisis of scientific authority.”


The next time someone mentions “climate science” I plan to point them to this work. If climate scientists wonder why they are treated as a joke, it’s because they allow junk like this to be published. “Peer review” alone is not enough apparently.

Communist Core Math why common core [math] fails the test

Why Common Core [Math] Fails the Test

“Why common core [math] fails the test.”

That’s the title of Sarah Hoyt’s wonderful article over at PJ Media. Ms. Hoyt describes, in great detail, why Common Core math was designed that way and why it won’t work any better than “whole word” reading.  Her husband is a mathematician, so her source is pretty good.

I urge everyone to read this excellent piece.

The Economist Made Me an Offer I Can’t Understand

Tucked inside this morning’s Wall Street Journal was an offer for a very deep discount on a subscription to The Economist.  Unfortunately, The Economist made me an offer I couldn’t understand.  Here’s the flyer (with my annotations):

The Economist subscription offer

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The information in the top right corner seems to say my discounted subscription rate is $15 for 12 weeks (about $5 per month). That’s quite a deal compared to the regular price of $334.97. (Aside: does The Economist really charge over $1,000 for a one-year subscription? Sounds high to me.)

However, the fine print in the lower right panel says $15 per month.  That’s about $45 for 12 weeks, a far cry from $15.

Here are my guesses.  First, the initial $15 buys 12 weeks.  After that the price is $15 per month.  The $334.97 for 12 weeks is the total of all the items in the list (including $108 for “The Economist in Audio,” are they kidding?).  And do they really charge $83.88 for 12-week access to their content via mobile apps?  Seems to me it would be cheaper just to use the mobile browser and access for “only” $23.29.

But what’s really amazing is that this “deal” isn’t a deal.  Here are the regular subscription rates:

The Economist's regular rates

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Let’s see.  $1.25 per week for 12 weeks is exactly $15!  In other words you can get the same rate through The Economist website as their “special offer.”  But the website is even better because you can get an annual subscription for $160, about $3.08 per week or $12.31 for four weeks. And if you’re a student, that one-year subscription is a mere $96.  Register for a class at a local cheap community college and save $64!

The best I can say about this is that the pricing is confusing and appears irrational. If The Economist really wants my business, they’ll have to make me an offer I can understand.

Math is Hard

Math is hard.  That point was made once again by James Taranto in the March 13 Best of the Web Today at the Wall Street Journal website.  The excerpt below is the last item in today’s column.

Talk About Small Beer

The Los Angeles Times’s Paresh Dave brings us the latest legal news:

For years, thousands of hockey fans and other arena-goers in Idaho have paid $4 for a “small” beer, served in a squatty plastic cup, and $7 for a “large” beer, served in a taller cup. According to a lawsuit filed this week against CenturyLink Arena in Boise, the cups hold the same amount of beer, despite their apparent differences.

The arena, operated as Block 22 LLC, is accused of knowingly misleading and defrauding customers and intentionally adopting “unconscionable methods” that amounted to deceptive business practices.

The lawsuit filed in Idaho state court by two individuals and a couple seeks class-action status to represent the thousands who have bought the $7 beer. They seek punitive damages as well as more than $10,000 in actual damages.

In response, the arena president put out a statement acknowledging error:

“It was recently brought to our attention that the amount of beer that fits in our large (20-oz) cups also fits in our regular (16-oz) cups. The differentiation in the size of the two cups is too small. To correct that problem, we’re purchasing new cups for the large beers that will hold 24 ounces, instead of 20, for the remainder of this season to provide better value to our fans.

It’s not clear how a 20-ounce cup can hold only 16 ounces of beer [sic] (or perhaps a 16-ounce cup can hold 20). But 16 ounces for $4 amounts to 25 cents an ounce, while 24 ounces for $7 comes to more than 29 cents an ounce, and 20 ounces for $7 is a whopping 35 cents an ounce.

Plaintiff Brady Peck claims he’s bought 30 large beers over the years, which means that even if he got the full 20 ounces, he paid $60 more than the small-beer price. The other three plaintiffs “attended multiple sporting events during the last five years and purchased at least one large beer.” It’s hard to see how that could add up to $10,000 in actual damages, but math doesn’t seem to be the plaintiffs’ strong suit.

President Obama Has a Solution to a Problem Created by the ACA

"...he is out of touch with planet earth."

President Obama has a solution to a problem created by the ACA.  The ACA is better known as Obamacare.  The problem in question is employers cutting employee hours to less than 30, thus exempting the employer from some of the ACA mandates to business.  (It’s safe to assume that most businesses will have at least a few full-time employees who will be subject to ACA requirements — at least if there are 50 or more employees.)

The President’s solution?  Increase the minimum wage!  That’s a great idea — instead of just getting hours cut, some of those employees will find themselves with their work hours reduced to zero.  These are the employees who lost their jobs du to the minimum wage hike.

Mr. Obama is as bad at economics as he is at math.

The President Doesn’t Want Anyone To Be Better At Math Than Him

By falling in line with other states, California is abandoning its push for all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Last month, the State Board of Education unanimously shifted away from a 15-year policy of expecting eighth-graders to take Algebra I. The state will allow them to take either Algebra I or an alternate course that includes some algebra. New state standardized tests will focus on the alternate course — the same one adopted by most states under the Common Core curriculum being rolled out across the nation.

The change is controversial because success in Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.

From the February 4 San Jose Mercury-News:

Yes, you read that correctly.  President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have decided algebra is too tough for eighth-graders.  Apparently the president doesn’t want anyone to be better at math than him. And this is a recommendation requirement of their Common Core curriculum. (If you really believe this is just a recommendation, you haven’t spent much time trying to work with the federal government, specifically the department of education.)

The President’s Math

For those who don’t remember President Obama’s infamous interview with Jay Leno, here’s a link to the transcript.  And here’s the relevant excerpt:

Jay Leno, reading question from viewer: “When you help your daughters with their homework, is there a a subject you struggle with?”

President Obama: “Well, the math stuff I was fine with up until about seventh grade. But Malia is now a freshman in high school and — I’m pretty lost. You know, it’s tough. Fortunately, they’re great students on their own and if something doesn’t work, I’ll call over to the Department of Energy and see if they have a physicist to come over.”‘

But don’t take my word for it.  I know the link above goes to and many of you simply won’t believe that source.  For your edification, here’s a link to a video of the full interview (hosted on my blog’s server, don’t worry about that):

The View From a University

I am semi-retired from California State University, East Bay.  Prospective students are “required” to know algebra to be admitted to any of the California State University campuses.  I can assure you that some graduates of CSUEB cannot solve even the simplest algebra problem.  Why not?  The entire CSU funding system is based on enrollment.  One more student means a few more dollars in a university’s budget.  One fewer student means fewer dollars.  Administrators in this system have every incentive to keep students on campus.  Eventually those students graduate.  If they can’t do algebra, there are plenty of majors where they can still get a degree.

Who Needs Algebra

Today even manufacturing jobs require algebra.  Do a quick search on the string “manufacturing math” and you’ll find courses, online classes, tutorials, textbooks, and a host of other resources.  NPR recently ran a major story on this subject.  Can’t do algebra?  Practice this phrase: “You want fries with that?”


The dumbing down of the U.S. population apparently will continue under the current administration.  I weep for my country.

Math Is Hard

Update: cited by James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal.

Math is hard. It’s a hashtag on Twitter (#mathishard). And, apparently, it’s too hard for the president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers’ union in the country. See if you can spot the innumeracy in the following report. Hint: comparing one year’s spending with ten years of taxes (undiscounted) is not a very good idea. If you need more information, see the end.

From the PBS News Hour November 13, 2012 (

[JEFFREY BROWN] “As we just heard from Judy, President Obama met with leaders of labor and liberal groups today at the White House.

We’re joined now by two who were there.

Dennis Van Roekel is the president of the National Education Association. With some three million members, including teachers, it’s the largest labor union in the country. And Justin Ruben, executive director of, a political advocacy group.

Want to start with you, Dennis Van Roekel. What was the key message that you brought to the White House and wanted the president to hear today?

DENNIS VAN ROEKEL, National Education Association: Well, I brought the message that, number one, it’s important that we let the Bush tax cuts disappear for the wealthiest 2 percent.

As we’re looking for a $1.2 trillion solution, $829 billion takes us a long way there. I also brought a message that there are other areas of taxes that we looked at that need to be — look at the fairness issue. President Obama not only won this election, but so did his ideas and his values. The American people want fairness. They want everyone to pay their fair share.”

Give up? The $829 billion in tax revenue is the total of ten years of revenue without discounting. But the $1.2 trillion is one year’s government budget deficit.

Twitter a Polling Alternative?

Twitter BirdTwitter a polling alternative?  This idea was proposed and discussed at great length on NPR’s “On the Media” August 12.  Rather than trying to summarize the show, let me just quote the abstract:

“Twitter has teamed up with Republican and Democratic polling firms, as well as another company called Topsy, to create a new tool called the Twindex. It offers a new way to gauge the political leanings of likely voters. Bob speaks with Adam Sharp, Twitter’s manager for government and politics.”

This is typical media stupidity.  Tweets are public unless you work very hard to keep them private.  Most people on Twitter do not reveal much about their personal lives.  There are many fake personas, too.  Our cat has a Twitter feed (made up mostly of other household pets and other animals).  People routinely lie.  People will also lie to a telephone pollster, but at least they don’t have the incentive of their response being visible to the entire world.

Ironically, most of the comments deal with Twitter users not being representative of the public because they are too technical.  Sheesh.  If you can’t use Twitter, you probably can’t really function in today’s world at all.

David Burge has an excellent column on the reality of polling and statistics on his blog.  I strongly recommend reading it before you sign up for Twindex (or any other social media based metric).

Algebra is Hard, So Why Bother?

[Updated August 1 with link to Daniel Willingham’s excellent piece.] Algebra is hard, so why bother teaching it?  That’s the “point” made by Andrew Hacker, an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York in the Sunday, July 29 New York Times.  The sheer stupidity of this column is breathtaking.  I use algebra every single day.  I know many people who aren’t very good at algebra.  They usually spend more than is necessary because they can’t do simple calculations and comparison pricing.

Can’t do algebra?  Congratulations.  You’ve just given up any career in engineering, science, math (surprise), computer science, some social sciences (including economics), finance, and … wait for it … political science.  I wonder exactly what sort of  “political scientist” Prof. Hacker is.  So I went looking.  He is listed as teaching one course: American Politics and Government (PSCI 100).  Aha.  He’s not really a political scientist.  He’s a politics professor.  (Brandeis University is one of the few to honestly call that department the Department of Politics.)  More about Prof. Hacker and Queens College shortly.

The blogosphere is all over this story.  The best (and most vicious) is from Memento Mori. Here’s a sample:

“Ultimately, I think Hacker’s own innumeracy is preventing him from making a clear argument. All his praise of numerical skills doesn’t obscure the fact that he doesn’t seem to understand exactly what those skills are, much less how they are acquired.
One final shocker from Hacker’s piece, a full paragraph that I quote unaltered:

It’s true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it’s their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.

My first reaction to this is “What the HELL?!?!?”  That’s a logic test right there, in two sentences.  Unpacking it, however, should be A) another show, and B) grounds for Hacker’s de-emeritification.”

Others slamming Prof. Hacker include, Rob Knop at Galactic Interactions, and Andy Soffer’s blog. If you’re looking for something a little more in-your-face, try Maddox at The Best Page in the Universe.  Daniel Willingham has put together a nice analysis, complete with footnotes and citations.

Back to Prof. Hacker.  One good reason for learning algebra and other math is so you can put together a web page that doesn’t break when Safari tries to render it.  Below is a (rather large, sorry) screen capture of the Queens College page.  Enough said.

Queens College Info Page, Andrew Hacker

Queens College Info Page, Andrew Hacker